Based on the rotation to date, rookie Matthew Stafford was likely to get the start — or the chance to begin the game, as coach Jim Schwartz jokingly likes to put it — in Thursday's final preseason game at Buffalo. But Schwartz admitted Tuesday that Daunte Culpepper's absence from practice Monday and Tuesday likely cemented the decision.
"Most likely, with the way practice is going now, along with everything else. So Matt will start the game — begin the game — at quarterback," said Schwartz, warning that the move still does not foreshadow anything in terms of a decision on the regular-season starter, nor does it give Stafford any more of a chance than he had before. "Probably no more than if Daunte was playing. And I don't want to rule Daunte out."
Culpepper missed his second day of practice after getting stitches to close a small tear on his foot, suffered when he stubbed his toe at home Saturday night. He watched Monday's practice, but did not attend Tuesday's workout.
"He was sore from walking around all day yesterday, and we thought the best course of action today was to keep him from walking around, keep him off that foot, and hope to see how he responds that way. Any time you have stitches, a lot of times, they hurt like (heck) the first couple of days, then they sort of desensitize. So we're hoping that happens with him," Schwartz said.
Even if Culpepper misses Thursday's game, it won't affect his standing in the derby for the starting job at quarterback.
"No, probably not. I think you still go with — if Daunte doesn't play, you still go with what he's done so far. You can't erase what he's done so far. He's had a lot of practices, he's had a lot of games, a lot of meeting time, and things like that, so you can't erase all that stuff, just because he had a little mishap," Schwartz said. "He has a body of work. He's been at every single practice. He hasn't missed a practice, he hasn't missed a game up to this point, so 20 snaps in this game, 25 snaps in this game, isn't going to drastically change his evaluation."
Culpepper's absence from practice was not the only void at the position. Monday's MRI on Drew Stanton's left knee revealed a tear in the meniscus, and the third-year backup flew Tuesday to Birmingham, Ala., to consult with Dr. James Andrews for arthroscopic surgery as early as Wednesday.
The Lions left Stanton, a second-round pick in 2007, on the active roster, instead releasing guard Terrence Metcalf to make room to sign another quarterback, Brooks Bollinger. Stanton injured his knee in the Alamo Bowl as a freshman at Michigan State, then missed his entire rookie season after knee surgery with the Lions.
"We'll know more after we get it scoped, but we don't anticipate it being a long-term injury," said Schwartz, who did not know precisely when Stanton injured his knee in Saturday's game. "It's hard to really point on anything, because he wasn't sore after the game."
One of the quarterbacks the team brought in for tryouts at the start of camp for just such an emergency, Bollinger split snaps with Stafford in Tuesday's practice, and will play in Thursday's game, and likely will see a fair amount of action, if Culpepper can't go.
"He won't have the whole playbook, obviously, but he'll have enough that we can go out and compete. He'll have enough on first and second downs, a couple of play-actions, a couple of boots (bootlegs). He'll know the whole run game, and then third down, we'll give him a couple of things that we can go with. He's an experienced quarterback — that's not a rookie. He'll be up to speed pretty quick," Schwartz said of the seven-year veteran.